300th birthday of Vilna Gaon ceremony despite coronavirus

Lithuanian FM: 'Today near Vilna Gaon's grave I pay tribute to great Gaon, eternal symbol of history and culture of Lithuanian Jewry.'

Mordechai Sones ,

300th birthday of Vilna Gaon
300th birthday of Vilna Gaon
Israeli Embassy in Lithuania

Today marks the day of the birth of Rabbi Eliyahu Ben Shlomo Zalman, popularly known as Rabbi Eliyahu - the GRA.

The Gaon was born on this day in 1720, exactly 300 years ago, in a small village in the area that is today in Belarus, but spent most of his years living in the city of Vilna, Lithuania and is therefore called the Vilna Gaon.

The GRA, the father of the Lithuanian stream in haredi Judaism, was called Gadol Hador - the greatest in his generation - known as a commentator, an arbiter, a giant in Torah and a staunch opponent of the hasidic movement.

On the occasion of the 300th birthday of the Vilna Gaon, a modest birthday ceremony was held in his honor today attended by Lithuania Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius and Israel's ambassador to Vilnius, Yossi Levi.

The Foreign Minister laid a stone on the Gaon's tomb and talked about the deep connection between Lithuanians and Jews and the contribution of the Gaon to forming "Yerushalayim D'Lita" as a global spiritual center.

Foreign Minister Linkevicius tweeted in Hebrew: "Today near the Vilna Gaon's grave I pay tribute to the great Gaon, the eternal symbol of the history and culture of Lithuanian Jewry. The great contribution of the Vilna Gaon to spiritual Jewish life is very important."

Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz thanked the Lithuanian Foreign Minister, saying: "300 years ago today, one of Judaism’s greatest religious thinkers, the Vilna Gaon was born in Vilnius. His legacy and the rich history of Lithuania’s Jewish community lives on. Thank you to FM Linas Linkevicius for this meaningful tribute at the Vilna Gaon’s grave this morning."

Most Vilna Gaon events announced by the Lithuanian government have not been held due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum in Vilnius